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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Qatar Airways cancels first A320neo order following delays


A Qatar Airways A320 Neo - still under test by Airbus
A Qatar Airways A320neo – still under test by Airbus

Qatar’s national carrier has called off its first order of the Airbus A320neo, increasing pressure on the French aircraft manufacturer after a series of issues with the new plane.

The aircraft was originally expected to be delivered to Qatar Airways by the end of last year – but this was delayed due to problems with the plane’s engines, hydraulics and operating software.

Four more were expected to follow before the summer, but have not, severely affecting the carrier’s operating schedule.

Speaking at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual meeting in Dublin this week, CEO Akbar Al Baker reportedly said:

“We are five aircraft down this summer. This is why we are screaming because it is making a huge impact on my bottom line.”

Due to the extended delay, Qatar Airways took advantage of the cancellation clause for the first A320neo.

Al Baker added that the airline would consider canceling the four remaining aircraft in production when they reached the same time limit.

The airline has a total of 50 A320neo-family planes on order.

Engine troubles

The A320neo is a single-aisle aircraft designed for use on short and medium-haul routes. Its “neo” suffix describes the plane’s new engines, which are designed to be more fuel-efficient.

An A320neo test flight
An A320neo test flight

However, it was these engines – designed by American firm Pratt & Whitney – that led to the initial delivery delays.

They were found to have problems with engine performance at high temperatures, a significant issue for Qatar Airways.

However, Pratt & Whitney intervened in the dispute on Friday, saying that Al Baker’s comments were “completely inaccurate and mischaracterize the engine’s performance.”

“We have resolved the very few initial teething items airlines have experienced,” they added.

In April, Al Baker said further issues with the plane had been discovered that would also push back the aircraft’s expected delivery time.

Citing unnamed industry sources, Reuters said this had to do with “increased noise” when some of the new aircraft were taxiing.

Unhappy customer

Qatar Airways had been expected to be the aircraft’s launch customer, but changed its mind after being told of the engine fault.

Lufthansa stepped into the fray, however, and became the neo’s first operator in January.

Speaking in April, Al Baker said that Airbus “knew very well”  that his airline was “a very unhappy, very unhappy customer.”

Al Baker said this week that the airline could buy Boeing 737s instead to fill the gap in its schedules, or consider buying A320neo jets with an alternative engine made by General Electric and France’s Safran.

He added that he had not sought compensation from Airbus for the neo delays.


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